Clara Hale, best known to the world as "Mother Hale" for her devotion to drug-addicted and AIDS-infected children, was born Clara McBride on April 1, 1905, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Early life was not easy: she was orphaned by age 16, soldiered on, finishing high school before marrying Thomas Hale and moving with him to New York.
Sadly, Hale also was widowed at a young age. After working as a janitor to provide for her three children, she used her home to provide childcare for children whose parents worked outside their own homes, many of whom were live-in domestics. Several of the children lived with Hale during the week, returning to their families on the weekend. Hale also provided foster care.
At age 65, Hale began caring for drug-addicted babies, after a troubled young mother left her child in Hale's care. Weeks later, she found herself caring for 22 babies in similar conditions. In addition, her daughter and two sons did all they could to help Hale nurture the children in their home to health and happiness.
Their kindness caught the attention of philanthropic donors and organizations, which enabled the Hales to renovate a five-story brownstone that became known as Hale House. Soon after, they began caring for AIDS-infected babies.
President Ronald Reagan honored Hale in his 1985 State of the Union address, during which he introduced her as a "true American hero." She also is a recipient of the Harry S. Truman Award for Public Service. She died at age 87 on Dec. 18, 1992, from complications of a stroke.
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